Consumers Razz Telecom Law Birthday

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Marking the seventh birthday of the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996,
the Consumers Union called the law a failure that Congress should reverse with
new rate controls on cable operators.

In a press release, the CU called for a new law that would empower state
governments to regulate cable rates and would allow consumers to pick their
channel lineups on an a la carte basis.

The CU said cable reregulation was necessary because nominal cable rates,
unadjusted for inflation or quality improvements, have risen 48 percent since
1996 and "satellite TV has yet to pose a serious threat to cable's
dominance."

President Clinton signed the 1996 law Feb. 6 in the Library of Congress. The
bill was hugely popular in Congress, with only five senators voting against
it.

The cable industry, which opposes reregulation, argued that the law permitted
cable companies to invest about $70 billion to upgrade systems and roll out
digital TV, local phone and high-speed-data services.

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